”Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130.1-2)
In life there are episodes of failure and guilt whose grip can burden the mind: issues that lead to the destruction and breaking of relationships with loved ones and with God. Through confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness as Jesus promises that failure and guilt are wiped away.
Sin may be acknowledged in corporate worship, in silent prayer or in a personal confession. Confession may be made to a priest, to some other parish worker or to another parishioner. The person hearing the confession is bound by a duty of confidentiality at all times. Clergy are bound by church law to observe absolute confidentiality in all confessional and pastoral matters.
Confession may also be made in the context of a pastoral conversation, in which a person's life situation may be discussed and solutions sought for a wide range of problems. Such confidential conversations may often take place without a formal confession.
The seal of the confessional and the duty to observe confidentiality in all matters pertaining to a confession is binding. Priests have an absolute duty of confidentiality, and may not disclose anything divulged in a confession or a pastoral conversation, nor the identity of any person whose confession they have heard. Other parish workers also have an absolute duty of confidentiality unless released by the consent of a client or legally required to disclose information, for example by the Child Welfare Act. If a parishioner hears a confession they are bound by common morality to observe the duty of confidentiality.